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FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Kensington Lakes Activities Association

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, August 29, 2019, 2:30 pm

KENSINGTON LAKES ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION

Returning all-state players:

Cameron Wallace (2021), C, Belleville — MHSFCA Dream Team, AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Damon Payne (2021), DL/OL, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Cole Riddle (2020), DE/LB, Brighton — MHSFCA all-state (D1), AP D1-2 all-state (HM)

Andre Seldon (2020), DB, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Christian Dhue-Reid (2021), QB, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (2nd team)

[For a look at the state’s top 50 players, CLICK HERE]

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KLAA EAST

Defending champion: Belleville (12-1, 7-0 KLAA East)

Returning all-state players:

Cameron Wallace (2021), C, Belleville — MHSFCA Dream Team, AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Andre Seldon (2020), DB, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Christian Dhue-Reid (2021), QB, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (2nd team)

Returning all-KLAA players:

Dhue-Reid (2021), Belleville

Wallace (2021), Belleville

Seldon (2020), Belleville

Jakobe Watkins (2022), OL, Belleville

Damon Payne (2021), DL, Belleville

Christopher Lunsford (2020), PK, Belleville

Ronald Jackson (2020), DB, Belleville

Brandon Thomas (2020), DB, Dearborn Fordson

Jacob Kelbert (2020), QB, Livonia Franklin

Jake Swirple (2020), OL, Livonia Franklin

Jake Tafelski (2020), RB, Dearborn

Tommy Guarjardo (2020), TE, Dearborn

Defending the title: Belleville (12-1, 7-0 KLAA East) — The Tigers return eight players on offense, including their all-state quarterback, junior Christian Dhue-Reid, a slew of wideouts, as well as four of five offensive linemen — including Coleon Smith (Indiana), Ramier Lewis and Cameron Wallace. The issue will be replacing the majority of the front seven on a defense that lost Jalen Hunt (Iowa/Michigan State), Julian Barnett (Michigan State), Marvin Ham (Colorado) and Tyrece Woods (Buffalo), among others. The defense won’t be bereft of talent, though, with corners Andre Seldon (Michigan) and Brenden Deasfernandes (Iowa), along with safety Ronald Jackson. They’ll play behind young studs Damon Payne (DT) and Jamari Buddin (OLB).

The challenger: Livonia Franklin (7-5, 4-3 KLAA East) — The KLAA coaches poll picked the Patriots to finish second in the East Division behind Belleville, and it’s understandable since they had three of their five losses — Belleville and Groves were not as close — come by a total of 24 points. Senior quarterback Jacob Kelbert led Franklin to the D2 finals as a sophomore, and will be working behind a big, experienced offensive line that features Kyle Fugedi, Aaron Mass, Jake Swirple and Chad Reeves. Running back James Carpenter and wideout Connor McIntosh are key weapons for Kelbert, while defensive tackle Erick Reaves, linebackers Evan Pittenger and and Grant Gibson, and DB Trevor Whisman anchor the defense.

Dark horse: Dearborn Fordson (10-2, 6-1 KLAA East) — The Tractors finally broke through against Cass Tech in the playoffs — after seven playoff losses to the Technicians since 2009 and four in a row — before losing to the eventual D1 state champ in regionals. Fordson has to reload a bit, replacing 30 seniors, including the core of their skill positions on offense in quarterback Hussein Ajami, running back Abe Jaafar and wideout Ahmed Allamy, a process that got harder when quarterback contender Rayan Abbas broke his elbow wrestling. Fordson returns four starters on each side of the ball, including defensive backs Hassan Mansour and Brandon Thomas, offensive lineman Ali Baiz and power running back James Wheeler, but has to get healthy.

Picks: 1. Belleville (12-1, 7-0 KLAA East); 2. Livonia Franklin (7-5, 4-3 KLAA East); 3. Dearborn Fordson (10-2, 6-1 KLAA East); 4. Livonia Churchill (7-3, 5-2 KLAA East); 5. Livonia Stevenson (1-8, 1-6 KLAA East); 6. Dearborn (5-5, 3-4 KLAA East); 7. Westland John Glenn (4-5, 2-5 KLAA East); 8. Wayne Memorial (0-9, 0-7 KLAA East)*

*— Preseason coaches poll

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KLAA WEST

Defending champion: Brighton (7-3, 7-0 KLAA West)

Returning all-state players:

Cole Riddle (2020), DE/LB, Brighton — MHSFCA all-state (D1), AP D1-2 all-state (HM)

Returning all-KLAA players:

Riddle (2020), Brighton

Brad Luketic (2020), OL, Brighton

Nate Hoffman (2020), OL, Brighton

Luke Stanton (2020), DE, Brighton

Zach Pardonnet (2020), LB, Brighton

Ben Stesiak (2020), QB, Canton

Jake Vickers (2020), OT, Canton

Mike Mathias (2020), WR, Plymouth

Nathan Janke (2020), DB, Plymouth

Alec Beshears (2020), DB, Plymouth

Ivan Davis (2020), DE, Plymouth

Logan Walkley (2020), LB, Plymouth

Mason Nelson (2020), OL, Howell

Josh Williams (2020), DT, Salem

Defending the title: Brighton (7-3, 7-0 KLAA West) — The Bulldogs return seven starters on offense and five on defense from a team that won the KLAA West, but lost twice to Belleville, and to East Kentwood in the a first-round nailbiter. Quarterback Will Jontz moved on to Indiana, but Brighton might actually be more pass-oriented this season than it was last year, with Colby Newburg replacing Jontz under center, and pass-catcher Reuben Salinas transferring in from McAllen, Texas. The strength of the Bulldogs will be the front seven on defense, with all three linebackers — led by Cole Riddle and Zach Pardonnet — back, as well as two starters on the D-line. That’ll help cover up for a less experienced secondary.

The challenger: Canton (6-4, 6-1 KLAA West) — Before the LVC exodus, and re-alignment, Canton had won at least a share of six South Division titles, and three Kensington Conference championships, then won the KLAA’s Black Division in 2017. That meant last year was as much a culture shock from the second-place finish in the KLAA West, as it was from transitioning to a new coaching staff under Andrew LaFata and company. This year’s team won’t be as dependent on feeing the ball to the graduated Steven “Wonder” Walker, and might — *gasp* — even open it up a bit offensively with senior quarterback Ben Stesiak, but it won’t be crazy. It’ll just be a more comfortable start to the season than last year, which was rushed with the late hire. 

Dark horse: Plymouth (6-4, 5-2 KLAA West) — The Wildcats jumped from four wins to six in the first year under new head coach Brian Lewis, and returned a huge group of juniors from that squad, one that has a better grasp of the system than at this time last year. Senior quarterback Nick Downs will be throwing to a wideout corps that includes senior Mike Mathias, while Ivan Davis and Logan Walkley are the veterans up front on defense, with Alec Beshears and Nathan Janke in the defensive backfield. 

Picks: 1. Canton (6-4, 6-1 KLAA West); 2. Brighton (7-3, 7-0 KLAA West); 3. Plymouth (6-4, 5-2 KLAA West); 4. Northville (3-6, 2-5 KLAA West); 5. Novi (2-7, 1-6 KLAA West); 6. Hartland (3-6, 3-4 KLAA West); 7. Howell (4-5, 4-3 KLAA West), 8. Salem (2-7, 0-7 KLAA West)* 

*— Preseason coaches poll

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Graduated all-state players:

Jalen Hunt, DT, Belleville — MHSFCA Dream Team, AP D1-2 all-state (HM)

Steven Walker, RB, Canton — MHSFCA All-State (D1), AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Jackson Krause, DB, Brighton — MHSFCA all-state (D1)

Avery Grenier, WR/FS, Livonia Churchill — MHSFCA all-state (D2), AP D1-2 all-state (HM)

Julian Barnett, WR, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Devontae Dobbs, OL, Belleville — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Darius Robinson, DE/TE, Canton — AP D1-2 all-state (1st team)

Abraham Jaafar, RB, Dearborn Fordson — AP D1-2 all-state team (2nd team)

Will Jontz, QB, Brighton — AP D1-2 all-state (HM)

Nathan Eades, WR/CB, Howell — AP D1-2 all-state (HM)